Flatwater Festival

Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023
The Barn at the Ackerhurst Dairy Farm in Bennington

A celebration of Nebraska journalism, the stories that bring us together, and the stories that challenge us and our leaders to do better for our communities.

Note: Tickets to this event are sold out

Festival Details

Mark your calendar Thursday, September 14, for an evening that promises to be as interesting, enlightening, and distinctly Nebraskan as our journalism aspires to be.

We’ll start the evening with a panel of all-star journalists who know a thing or two about Nebraska, moderated by our own Matthew Hansen. We’ll talk about the issues, the news media and — in true Flatwater style — whatever you want to talk about since we’ll ask for your questions.

Then we’ll say a few words, recognize special guests and follow the program with a happy hour and food trucks. Because we like to do things a little differently.

Start time: We’re so excited, we’re opening the doors early, at 5:00 p.m. Program starts at 6:00 p.m. We encourage you to arrive early, grab a drink, and socialize; the program will start on time. 

Dress: Business casual or jeans if you prefer – we’re in a barn!

Construction alert: With State Street under construction and closed, The Barn is accessible only from Military Road. From 156th Street, head east/southeast on Military. See map below.

Festival Panel

LaSharah Bunting

CEO and Executive Director, Online News Association

Omaha native LaSharah Bunting leads the world’s largest digital journalism association. Previously, she served as Vice President and Executive Editor at Simon & Schuster. At the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, she directed initiatives that drove digital transformation in newsrooms, promoted equity, and fostered new skills development, following a successful 13-year tenure at the New York Times where she held various editorial roles.

Dionne Searcey

Reporter, New York Times

Dionne Searcey, originally from Wymore, won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting and is the author of the book “In Pursuit of Disobedient Women.” Her career spans roles as a U.S. politics reporter, West Africa bureau chief, and investigative reporter. She’s reported on subjects ranging from women suicide bombers in West Africa to fiscal crises in Long Island and natural disasters like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.

Jeff Zeleny

Chief National Affairs Correspondent, CNN

Jeff Zeleny, originally from Exeter, assumed the role of CNN’s chief national affairs correspondent in January 2021. With a wealth of experience spanning five presidential elections, Zeleny’s career includes roles at ABC News as their senior Washington correspondent, where he reported on the Obama administration and the Republican Party’s rise to power during the 2014 midterm elections.

Special Guests

Emcee: Carol Wang

Executive Director, Metro Omaha Medical Association

Carol Wang is the Executive Director of the Metro Omaha Medical Society after having spent a career as a journalist. She worked as a newspaper reporter before moving to television news in Topeka, Wichita, Dallas and finally as the evening anchor at KMTV in Omaha, where she earned several awards for her reporting. She’s an active volunteer in the community, serving on the Aksarben Women’s Ball Committee, the Omaha Chamber of Commerce Board, advisory committees for the Omaha Public Library Foundation, OneWorld Community Health Centers, and Omaha Performing Arts. She’s also been recognized for her volunteerism, being named one of the Ten Outstanding Young Omahans. Most recently she was selected for the Mavis Bock Leadership Award from the Omaha Public Library Foundation. In 2023, Carol joined the board of the Nebraska Journalism Trust, the nonprofit publisher of the Flatwater Free Press.

Festival Menu

Hawk’s Pizza

  • Entree: Two pizza slices
  • Side: Pasta Salad
  • Side: Mac & Cheese

Pizza flavors: Pepperoni, Carnivore, Cheese Lover, Pesto Chicken

House of Bah

  • Entree: Jollof Rice
  • Entree: Roots Poutine
  • Entree: Soweto Sandwich
  • Side Jerk Chicken
  • Side: Chakalaka
  • Side: Plantain

Maria Bonita

  • Entree: Enchiladas
  • Entree: Burrito
  • Side: Chips & Salsa
  • Side: Beans & Rice

Wonton Jon’s

  • Entree: 4 Wontons
  • Side: 2 Wontons

Flavor options:
Peanut Butter Chicken,
Crab Rangoon, Elote,
Buffalo Chicken,
Spinach Chicken Artichoke, Strawberry Feta

Dessert by Paper Moon Pastries


For this inaugural Flatwater Festival, we’ve reserved The Barn at the Ackerhurst Dairy Farm in Bennington, just northwest of the Omaha metro. Our goal is to make the Festival an annual fall tradition that bounces around the state.

Address: 15220 Military Rd, Bennington, NE 68007

Parking: Parking in the Barn’s lot is limited; overflow parking is in the adjacent neighborhood. Please help everyone by carpooling if possible. People with mobility limitations should arrive early to get a spot in the lot. The Barn itself is ADA accessible.

Illustrated map showing the roads around the Ackerhurst Dairy Farm in Bennington


American National Bank
Ho-Chunk Incorporated
KIOS - 91.5 Omaha Public Radio
Platte Institute

Flatwater Festival 2023

Thursday, September 14, 2023

The Barn at the Ackerhurst Dairy Farm in Bennington

Food and drink included; vegan and gluten free options available. Proceeds support the Flatwater Free Press newsroom.

Tickets to this event are sold out.